Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Karen Walker
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The issue isn't really whether or not avid bridge players can find another column. It's the loss of exposure and relevance. I've had many students tell me that they took my class because they had always been intrigued by the bridge column in the local newspaper and thought it looked like an interesting game.

My personal opinion is that Alder's column could be a lot better (the opening quotes waste space and make irrelevant, sometimes silly tie-ins to the bridge material). Good or bad, though, its presence in the paper is important in maintaining the public's awareness of our game.
April 29, 2015
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Such sad news. The first time I met Garey was when he (with Clarence Goppert and team-mates) showed up at the White Squirrel Sectional in Olney IL. We were all quite surprised to see a pro team at our “backwater” tournament.

I had about 20 masterpoints and was very nervous when we played Garey in the Swiss Teams. After he made a 4H contract, I was shaking my head. He correctly read my “I'm sure I could have beat this” expression and politely asked if I would like to know why he made it.

He first offered a compliment on how I had defended the hand up to the critical point, then explained why my club switch had given him his tenth trick and how I could have figured it out.

I was profuse in thanking him and apologizing to my partner. He finally saved me from total self-deprecation by squeezing my hand and saying, “A lot of players would have made the same lead, dear.”

To this day, I think of that match – and Garey's kind advice to a novice – whenever I see that suit combination (Qxx in my hand and 10xx in the dummy on my right).

The bridge world has lost a great player and gentleman.
Feb. 6, 2015
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Tom Dodd and Chris Habegger from South Bend IN. I think they were the champs for almost a year in the late 1980s.
Jan. 27, 2015
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I don't have an issue with the size of the city, either, nor even the host hotel rates as long as there are reasonably priced hotels nearby. I don't mind walking a few blocks to save $50 a night.

I had no problem finding good hotels in Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Toronto. A few times, I actually got the host hotel by accident (lower than ACBL's rate) by booking through Priceline and LMT.

That's the big problem in New Orleans. Even with the highest-priced rooms ever, ACBL actually has the best rate in town because other demand is so high. If the solution is to schedule more tournaments in off-season locations, maybe that should be the priority in the future.

Minneapolis in November sounds fine to me.
Jan. 23, 2015
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I have always wondered why the ACBL rooms are so often sold out several months before the tournament. No matter what the city, no matter how outrageous the prices, there are seldom enough rooms for the players who want them.

A logical assumption is that the more rooms ACBL promises to sell, the cheaper the rate the hotel would offer, but someone in the ACBL tournament department told me years ago that this isn't always the case. Hotels in big downtown areas may be stingy with the number of rooms they will put in the convention block because they think they're losing money on them (the idea being those rooms could be sold at retail rates to business travelers). The result is that to get a bigger block, ACBL has to agree to a higher nightly rate.

Another variable in rate negotiations is the number of comped rooms included in the contract. Maybe this is an area where ACBL could economize. I don't begrudge the Board members their free rooms, but do they have to be on the club floor? Does the president really need a suite as big as a ballroom and catered parties every night? How about giving the president just a “regular” suite and cutting back on the number of parties and guests?

Maybe someone who has worked in the hotel industry can explain exactly what factors come into play in these negotiations – and which contract concessions ACBL could offer to make tournament hotels more accessible and affordable for players.
Jan. 23, 2015
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Rooms are available for parts of the week, but none for Tuesday, March 10, which is when I'm arriving.

It appears that ACBL is not making good estimates of how many rooms are needed in the block to accommodate NAP players. The same thing happened at the Las Vegas NABC this summer. The LVH hotel had availability for most of the week, but quickly ran out of rooms for the Tuesday before the tournament, when the GNT events started.
Jan. 23, 2015
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I've tried a lot of different “hooks” over the years in ads and course descriptions and I've asked students what they remember from the ads and what drew them to the class. Based on those informal conversations, here are the words/terms/benefits that seemed to get the most positive reactions:
#1 - Play-as-you-learn
#2 - Bill Gates
#3 - The idea that bridge is more popular than they thought (world's most popular game, 60 million people)
#4 - fast-paced (mainly men)
#5 - psychology (mainly women)
Oct. 24, 2014
Karen Walker edited this comment Oct. 24, 2014
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Here's some copy I wrote for a radio PSA for a series of college lessons. When I rewrote it for an older group, I emphasized memory improvement instead of math and logic skills.

==============
Ever wonder what Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates does in his spare time?

He's a fanatic for bridge, the world's most popular card game. In this play-as-you-learn class, you'll discover why Gates and 60 million other people around the world can't get enough of this exciting game.

When you play bridge, you'll use – and improve – your skills in communication, logic, math and psychology, all in a fun, fast-paced group game. You'll also have the chance to win great prizes in a tournament at the end of the class.
Oct. 24, 2014
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I share some of Aaron's disappointment in the modern trend toward selling easy masterpoints and what many feel are tainted achievements. ACBL isn't the real perpetrator, though. We have a different culture today than we did when many of us started playing, and ACBL had to respond.

Flight B and C events weren't available when I was a novice. We entered 200-table open events at regionals and prayed for enough luck to scrape up a few gold points for topping a section or going 6-2 in the Swiss Teams. It took months of failures before that happened.

The bridge-playing population would dwindle quickly if we expected today's new players to deal with those frustrations. We now have a society where the masses demand instant gratification from leisure activities. If they don't get it, there are plenty of other choices, and they are quick to move on.

So ACBL added flights, new LM levels and gimmicks to give everyone a chance to experience some success and an incentive to come back for more. The Gold Rush games do that. They're a long-term home for those who don't aspire to become experts and don't enjoy playing against them. For others, they provide playing experience that serves as a stepping stone to participation in more competitive fields.

The latter group is what we need to develop and, as others have pointed out, most will be young people. Thanks to our educational system and some (misguided) child-development experts, many people in their 20s and 30s grew up in an environment that emphasized high self-esteem, whether it was deserved or not. Everyone in the class got gold stars on their arithmetic tests and trophies for their last-place sports teams (if the school even allowed them to keep score). If a child added 2+2=5, teachers were told to call it “creative”, never “wrong”.

The result is that great numbers of our potential players will need an occasional trophy (or masterpoint) to provide encouragement and keep their interest. There are many young people who are talented enough at the game to persevere without these fast rewards, but there aren't enough of them to keep bridge alive. If ACBL wasn't offering Gold Rush and other tiered games to attract the other 90+ (99?) percent, young and old, it would be a gigantic marketing blunder – and the rest of us would soon find fewer and fewer opportunities to play in any flight.
Oct. 16, 2014
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Another perspective, from a club manager who has to pay to replace the decks:

“Hard” shuffling a 13-card hand as if it's a full deck, and doing it numerous times, puts a lot of extra wear and tear on the cards, and they are not cheap. A gentle mixing of the cards is sufficient.

And while I'm at it, I'll add a complaint about the practice of pulling single bidding cards out of the box instead of taking out the stack behind the chosen bid. The extra fumbling on the individual bidding cards frays and creases the top tabs and putting each one back into the stack frays the bottom. Replacement sets are really not cheap.
Aug. 29, 2014
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We have “no methods”, but we have the eccentric agreement that a cuebid between two bidding opponents is 25+? Even in the Stone Age, that wasn't standard. I don't think 3S is the standout bid here, but if I chose that action, I can't believe any partner, including Charles Goren, would treat it as a high-card mountain.
Aug. 18, 2014
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Rules are rules, but I'd like for the directors to have some discretion in enforcing them. If a team can play fast enough to make up for a late arrival, then let them play all of the boards. Getting a “real” bridge result is always preferable to throwing out a board and assessing a penalty.

On the second day of the Platinum Pairs in St. Louis, my partner and I got stuck in traffic and a downpour and arrived 15 minutes late for the evening session. The director removed one board, explaining the assigned scores, and asked us to try and quickly play the other.

It was a fast auction and a faster claim, and because the session had started late, we still had 5 minutes on the clock. I asked our opponents if it would be okay if we played the other board.

They could have refused and taken their average-plus. The director could have refused and quoted rules and interrogated us about why we were late (maybe our drenched clothes made that unnecessary). But instead, everyone agreed and we played the board and finished on time.

I shouldn't be surprised to encounter such accommodating opponents and such a helpful director, but I was, very pleasantly.
July 30, 2014
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In the first session of a long-ago Orlando NABC, an opponent opened 2C with nine solid diamonds and out. We competed and bought the hand for 3S, which easily made five. No double from the 2C opener's partner, who had two kings.

I thought this was a clear psychic (and an adroit catch), but the director said it was a “grayish area”. We asked for a committee and were told to get in line, as there were four other appeals already filed on this same hand.

In the committee, the opponents displayed a convention card that indicated 2C was 22+ “or 9 tricks” (written in a different color of ink). The committee ruled that the score stood because the opponents believed this was a “normal” 2C opener and didn't intend to mislead us. The committee did, however, volunteer that if this had been an expert pair who “should know better”, they would have adjusted the score.

So back then, the quality of the player did make a difference, even though this was a championship event. I would hope that an issue that generated five appeals in one session would have motivated the directors and committees to develop a better way of handling this situation. Based on the comments in this thread, though, maybe it's all still “grayish”.
July 10, 2014
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Bob: Using FastResults, the local volunteers didn't have to do the online postings. Our directors uploaded all the info – very easy, and the results were available within 10 minutes after most sessions. I don't know if this is currently in the directors' job descriptions, but it should be. The sponsors of the project ask each tournament that uses the service to donate $100 to the ACBL Educational Foundation.
June 9, 2014
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Some aspects of the new design are more attractive and some strike me as trying way too hard – like the giant, in-your-face slide show that uses up half the screen on the home page.

My main complaint is that all the URLs were changed – again – which destroys users' bookmarks and, more important, all the links from external web sites. For the page with the Learn to Play Bridge software, they inexplicably changed the subdirectory name from “learn/” to “learn-page/”. Those who are trying to promote bridge by linking to this and other ACBL pages now have to edit all their sites' pages – if they'll even bother.

I agree with Bob Heitzman that this seems like a waste of money. Investing in new technology for getting online results, though, shouldn't be necessary, as this has already been done for ACBL (by Jay Whipple and the Common Game project). We used the new FastResults service at our recent regional – the emails and web postings really were fast and the players loved it.

Regarding suggestions for the site designers, the giant slide show has a panel that says “Have feedback about our web site?” I clicked it, but it insisted on taking me to the Outlook mailer, which I don't use. If anyone knows how to override that and get an email address I can use in my own mailer, please advise.

I voiced my concerns about the URL changes when ACBL did the last two redesigns. My suggestions obviously carried little weight then, but I'll try again.
June 8, 2014
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Moses was semi-invisible for a while, but is back on the scene. I'm playing with him later this month at our regional in Champaign. He still has the flair.
May 9, 2014
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I still use that term :)

There was also the “Moses Grand”, which is a trump fit of Axx opposite Qxxx. He once bid 7S with that holding and exuberantly defended it with, “Outside of the trump suit, it was a great contract!”
May 8, 2014
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Love Ron Zucker's concept of “penalty raises”.

In our college club, we used these acronyms with great frequency:
DIAL = The act of mangling the declarer play (“Down In A Laydown”).
TOON = A surprise gift by the defense (“Trick Out Of Nowhere”) and its cousins, the BOON, DOON and LOON (Bid, Double and Lead Out Of Nowhere).

These were invoked as nouns, verbs, adjectives and just about all other word forms. One could “dial the defense” (sometimes because of a LOON) or credit “toonage” for having a big game.
Going for a big number was “dialing long distance” (or 907, Alaska's area code).
May 8, 2014
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I posted this before I saw Allan Simon's comment above, which I obviously agree with. I'm happy to hear that there's at least one other person who still prefers the “low-tech” method of learning the outcome of a match.
April 1, 2014
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So is it a “privilege” to reveal the outcome of a match to a player before he can compare with his team-mates? Or a presumption that steals their thunder?

When I finish a team match, I enjoy the suspense of comparing with my team and sharing the moment with them, especially if it's a win. I certainly don't want to hear the result from a kibitzer.
March 31, 2014
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